The initial reaction to the recently announced 2WD version of Jeep's Grand Cherokee is to scoff and write it off as another sad example of the dumbing down of what's left of the "proper" 4WD market – vehicles with low-ratio gearing and at least a chance of getting to the end of the trail. Jeep in New Zealand has picked up the 2WD Laredo as an entry level vehicle, but at $64,990 it’s only four grand less than the four-paw Laredo that was previously the cheapest way to get into a new Grand Cherokee. 4wdNewz understands we're getting the 2WD not so much because of demand, but to mirror the Australian lineup.
In this case, history is on Jeep's side. The company has a long background of making 2WD versions of its products, most notably in recent times the original Cherokee XJ. That never came to NZ as a two-wheel-driver, but was popular in the US. Earlier, the wonderful but thirsty Wagoneer was available with rear-drive only until 1967. After the war, Jeep enjoyed some success with its odd Jeepster 2WD and when the name was revived in 1966, 2WDs were offered.
So the 2WD Grand Cherokee is just more of the same, although I doubt it'll sell well here. It uses the 3.6 litre Pentastar V6, while the 4WD Laredo can be bought with the V6 or a 3.0 litre diesel producing a hearty 570Nm of torque. A new eight-speed transmission is fitted to the entire Grand Cherokee range, reducing fuel consumption and emissions while giving better acceleration and smoother, faster shifting. It's similar to the one in the Range Rover.